Everyone who knows me well knows that I love travelling, and writing about travelling. I decided to include in these posts some of the lessons I learned from travelling both practical as well as thought provoking. Today's post is more of the practical nature. For anyone who wants to do a round the world trip - here are some of the important things I learned. Since I have not ruled out taking another one (would be solo this time) these are a few of the tips that I put together.
Today’s lesson was taught to me by my favourite birthday girl (who I believe is still celebrating) – how to go around the world in 25 days. This is a lesson I learned in 2008 and one that I will never forget! It began on 16th of February at Terminal 4 in Heathrow airport as we boarded our Quantas © flight to Thailand. We touched down in Thailand, Singapore, Australia (Darwin, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney), New Zealand (South Island) and San Francisco, before going to New York and then back to London for me, and we did it all in 25 days (it took me an extra few days before going back to London). I like to think that I returned to London a day younger than I left due to crossing the international date line, but I am reliably informed – that is not how it works! Here are the things I learned from her (and with her) as we planned and took our trip. We used a lot of these to plan other trips, so whether you are planning to go around the world or around the corner, consider these things:
1. Plan carefully – I assume that anyone taking a long trip such as this would do careful planning so let me explain what I mean. Ensure that you check all visa requirements, and allow plenty of time for the visas that may need to be booked ahead of time or that take time to process. Shop around for flights and always consider going to a travel agent for assistance. I find that travel agents have a wealth of knowledge about routes, and the simple switches that could save time, hassle and money, so it is worth speaking to one. If I was planning now, I would start my preliminary search through google flights (just search for it) and then start to play around with it from there, but I would not book it without consulting a travel agent. Check to see what temperature variations you will have – we went from hot sunshine to standing 5 feet away from a glacier, and needed clothes for both sets of conditions. We chose a time of year that would mean no temperature extremes in any of the places we went. And my last tip in this section – allow for travelling time! Sometimes an overnight flight can throw off the dates you input when you are searching for flights, and mess up your accommodation, so pay close attention when doing this. Once you have planned well, you can then build a little more spontaneity into the actual trip when you get there.
2. Budget – and then add extra – we decided on this trip a good year before we actually did it, and budgeted heavily for it, but prepare for fluctuations in currency and unexpected charges, as well as coming across an activity that you may not have planned but would like the opportunity to do. Check petrol prices if you are planning to hire a car, and take into consideration any tolls you may encounter, or fees for returning the car to a different location. Remember tips and service charges, and taxes which may not appear until you swipe your card. Yes - these things happen and yes - they all add up.
3. Choose your own adventure – One of the memories that stands out to me on our trip was the day that we left Thailand for Singapore, discussing how we would travel if we were rich. Would we fly first class or would we spend more on accommodation (we stayed at many hostels in this trip which were nice enough that I would still recommend it now). I was quite convinced that I would spend more money on accommodation if I could, until I climbed into that plane and realized that we had been upgraded to business class!! It was a pretty sweet experience, but having since looked at the cost, not one I am sure I would be willing to pay for. I say all of that to say – there is a wide scale of luxury you can have when booking your trip. For us – we were more interested in seeing as many places as possible, and less so in fancy restaurants and hotels. We would often get lunch (and sometimes breakfast) from a nearby supermarket, as well as snacks and water, especially when we were road tripping in New Zealand and eat out somewhere fancy a few times a week. That was fine for me then, and probably would be fine for me now, but make that decision before you start to set the budget and then do your research. Some places may be way more expensive than where you currently live. Other decisions to make in this category – will you self drive or book a guided tour, or combination of the two. When we were in Alice Springs and went to Uluru, I was very glad we didn’t drive… there was limited cell coverage, and kangaroos had the tendency of jumping out into the middle of the road… Plus the distances were ridiculously long, and the car hire company did not have unlimited mileage.
4. Plan some recovery time – Changing those time zones was exhausting. If I had to do it again, I would not have allowed so little time in new time zones. We pretty much hit the ground running everywhere we landed, but I am older now and not sure that I would want to (or be able to) be on the go as soon as I land, especially after the long flights.
5. Pick a great travel buddy – I have travelled with friends and travelled alone, and I will say one of the things that makes the trip fun and memorable is having a good companion along the way. Make sure that you both are looking to get similar things out of the trip, and are in agreement on how you want to spend your money and your time. Agree on the important things – what time will you want to get up in the morning; is coffee a reasonable breakfast substitute; do you need to stay in a 5* hotel; how happy are you driving on the opposite side of the road etc. This will help with planning a trip that both persons will find enjoyable, and will bring out your best moods. Believe me – short tempers can lead to huge arguments over navigating on the road, or choosing where to eat dinner, especially after you have only had 2 hours of sleep and have been through 6 time zones.
6. Take notes – I learned on one of the first trips I took that my memory wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, and the notes helped me to remember where I went and what I did. Keep a journal, write notes on facebook, send emails – it isn’t compulsory, but I am glad several years on that I did it.
To my best friend who went around the world with me (and luckily for me still speaks to me) – I hope you had a wonderful 40th birthday and here’s to many more adventures – however they come!
And to you and all readers, I send big love from a small island.
PS a pic taken of Uluru in Australia.